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Californian diocese to put windows in confessionals

The Diocese of San Jose is taking the recently established "no tolerance: policy on sexual misconduct to a new level, with its bishop ordering that windoes be placed in all confessionals, allowing others to see inside while parishioners reconcile their sins.

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath has required the installation of the windows in all of the diocese's 52 parishes over the coming year. The policy is believed to be the first of its kind in the US, although new and renovated Catholic churches in Europe have windows and glass walls in their confessional boxes.

"I want to make sure people feel safe, that everything's aboveboard, and that confession is visible, but not audible," McGrath said. "If anybody had it in the back of their mind that they were going to do anything wrong, they'd realize that it wasn't beyond discovery."

The bishop says he realises the windows will mean a loss of privacy, but maintains he has no choice. He says he has to ensure parishioners feel safe when they are alone with clerics, and he also wants to protect priests from false accusations.

The diocese has stressed that its measure is preventative, and not inspired by actual cases of abuse in confessionals in the past.

Fr Larry Hendel of St. John Vianney Parish worried the glass might discourage parishioners from confessing, and he lamented that priests have become figures of suspicion. He said he used to place his hands on parishioners during confession, but said he's no longer sure that's appropriate.

Diocese of San Jose
A visible step to reassure Catholics (Mercury News)


13 Aug 2002